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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #311582

Research Project: INTEGRATED APPROACH TO THE DETECTION AND CONTROL OF FOODBORNE PARASITES AND THE IMPACT ON FOOD SAFETY

Location: Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory

Title: Seroprevalence of toxoplasma gondii in white-tailed deer and free-roaming cats across a suburban to urban gradient in northeastern Ohio

Author
item BALLASH, GREGORY - The Ohio State University
item Dubey, Jitender
item Kwok, Oliver
item SHOBEN, ABIGAIL - The Ohio State University
item TERRY, ROBINSON - Cleveland Metroparks
item KRAFT, TOM - Cleveland Metroparks
item DENNIS, PAM - Cleveland Metroparks

Submitted to: EcoHealth
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/5/2014
Publication Date: 10/1/2014
Citation: Ballash, G., Dubey, J.P., Kwok, O.C., Shoben, A., Terry, R., Kraft, T., Dennis, P. 2014. Seroprevalence of toxoplasma gondii in white-tailed deer and free-roaming cats across a suburban to urban gradient in northeastern Ohio. EcoHealth. doi: 10.1007/s10393-014-0975-2.

Interpretive Summary: Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled parasite of all warm-blooded hosts worldwide. It causes mental retardation and loss of vision in children, and abortion in livestock. Cats are the main reservoir of T. gondii because they are the only hosts that can excrete the resistant stage (oocyst) of the parasite in the feces. Humans become infected by eating under cooked meat from infected animals and food and water contaminated with oocysts. In the USA, approximately 65% of deer have been exposed to T. gondii. White-tailed deer serve as both a potential source for human infection as well as indicators of environmental risk factors for exposure to T. gondii. Here the authors found T. gondii antibodies in deer from urban Ohio were significantly higher (66.1 % of 248) than from suburban (49.5% of 196), indicating contact with domestic cats and human dwellings were important in the epidemiology. The results will be of interest to biologists, and parasitologists.

Technical Abstract: Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate zoonotic protozoan parasite infecting a variety of animals. White-tailed deer-(WTD, Odocoileus virginianus) serve as both a potential source for human infection as well as indicators of environmental risk factors for exposure to T. gondii. Here we determine the seroprevalence of T. gondii in a WTD population, and examine those risk factors that increase exposure to the parasite. Serum samples from 444 WTD from a defined wildlife reservation divided it into urban and suburban areas and 77 freeroaming cats (Felis catus) from within 5 km of the reservation were tested for T. gondii antibodies using the modified agglutination test (MAT, cut-off 1:25). Antibodies to T. gondii were found in 261 (58.8%) of 444 WTD, with (66.1 %) of 248 from urban and 49.5% of 196 from suburban regions. Significant risk factors for seroprevalence included increasing age (p<0.0001) and urbanization (p<0.0001). Furthermore, as urbanization increased along the suburban to urban gradient, a significant increase in deer seroprevalence was observed (p=0.0156). Antibodies to T. gondii were found in (58.4%) of 77 cats, with seroprevalences of 56.1% of 66 and 72.7% of 11 from areas surrounding the urban and suburban reservations, respectively. Seroprevalence did not differ between those cats located near urban and suburban regions (p=0.345). However, the number of cats found in proximity to reservations increased with urbanization. Results indicate that limiting exposure of WTD to contaminated environments with high numbers of free-roaming cats could decrease WTD seroprevalence and risk of human infection.